A couple of days ago, I was asked the question: “What does courage mean to you?”
I was overwhelmed, uninspired, sick, and quite frankly, not in any mental state to answer such a dense question, so I gave a nonchalant: “Let me think about it” and proceeded to forget about it.
It was only when my body quite literally forced me to take a break by shutting down any capacity to go out of the house that I found myself revisiting this question.
Courage, just like love, is a word often thrown around and carelessly managed.
“Have courage, be kind.” – What’s that supposed to mean?
Y’know, one day I woke up and realised it was already the second week of February. I started the year penning out my intentions and lofty ambitions for the year, and let me be entirely honest: it has been difficult. It has been a struggle to keep to them, to remain on the path of growth and ownership, to remain above my circumstances. There have been so many times when I’ve fumbled and hurt myself, and in the process, hurt the people I truly care about.
I signed up for yoga classes, yet out of the 4 sessions that have been carried out, I’d missed two. I was to set aside at least 10 minutes at the beginning or end of each day to journal, but my journal for the year is still left pretty damn sparse. I told myself I was going to choose to always be kind to the people around me but in moments of bad judgement, I’ve lashed out to the people who matter most to me. This entry was supposed to be up some time back but I’ve procrastinated on it for so long when I finally made time to complete it last night, I was hit by a major migraine and panic attack that I couldn’t help but curl up in a ball and coax myself to sleep.
I’m sure you understand this whole oh-man-I’ve-messed-up-big-time feeling. I’m sure you’ve messed up as well.
It’s easy to let all the bad things accumulate and cloud our vision. To settle into a self-defeatist mindset and think, What’s the point in trying anyway?
Yet there is always a choice. We always have a choice.
Here I am, in a brand new day, choosing to pick up and do better. My dear, therein lies the beauty of growth, and with that, courage.
Through it all, I’ve learnt that courage doesn’t always look like screaming and fighting battle after battle. Sometimes courage looks like asking for help. Sometimes courage looks like helping a friend in need. Sometimes courage screams, but sometimes it whispers.
Sometimes courage is rising up, trying again, trying better and keeping to the things that make our heart content.
For the many times I’ve messed up, I’ve also a pretty good track record of doing good. I’ve sought to enjoy my job, to always see the best in people and situations around me, to be a blessing to the world in whatever capacity I can. I also rise, and rise again, every time I’m knocked to the ground. I look around and I see the people who matter to me dealing with their own set of demons and battles, struggling every single day, yet they choose to rise above and make the best out of their situations.They still give so much to the world.
Ah but I can keep talking about courage in intangible terms. Here’s me sharing a very practical (and personally very effective) tool on practicing courage in one area of life:
At the beginning of this year, just as I was hit by a personal tragedy, I gave myself two weeks to grief. It was a coping mechanism I’d learnt back when I was in Langkawi 2 years ago. I was grieving quietly then, when Ene (a fellow solo traveller in her 40s) shared this with me:
“When you find yourself in a position to grief, remember this: 2 weeks.
We grieve about many things: missed career or personal opportunities, failed relationships or friendships, unmet expectations, bad decisions.
Gift yourself 2 weeks to feel everything in its entirety – look at anger, pain, fear, hurt, sadness in the eye and greet them like an old friend. Sit with them and feel their embrace. You’re going to have moments of desperation, but you’re also going to have moments of clarity. You’re going to ride waves so high, and you’re going to crash too deep. You’re going to see who’s going to be with you through the ride, and who can’t stay. You’re going to feel like you can’t rise from the ashes, but trust me, you will get the opportunity to rise, and you’re going to seize it. You’re going to choose to let it make you better, and not bitter.
At the end of the 2 weeks, rise and don’t look back. You’re going to still have moments of weaknesses, but they’ll pale in magnitude because you did time for 2 weeks – they no longer have much power over you now.”
Perhaps courage is guarding your peace. It’s about not competing with how others choose to deal with growth. I’ve been made to realise that things are very often going to take on a life of their own and people’s growth trajectory will start to be very different from mine, and that’s okay. I can choose to be happy for them and love them anyway.
Perhaps courage means looking at fear in the eye – fear in whatever form it may take, be it fear of failure, fear of judgement, fear of never being good enough – and still doing what you’d set out to do. To take calculated leaps of faith and to always give it your best shot.
Perhaps courage looks a lot like allowing ourselves to accept our humanity and to embrace being imperfect. About being comfortable in our skin, in looking within to find out our strengths and weaknesses, and to allow ourselves to shine despite it all.
At the end of the day, perhaps courage is really just a matter of choosing to live the best life possible.
Have courage. We’re going to be alright.
Follow my daily musings and inspirations on Instagram, at @thetudungtraveller.
I probably am more consistent there.